strange but not a stranger


As Liz Lemon, a character from 30 Rock and my kindred spirit would say: “aw, blerg”. It’s a third of the way through July already and I have only just now managed to put pixel to webpage. This is partly because Tim and I have been quietly absorbed with Dexter (brutal but good!) and with rewatching season 2 of 30 Rock (brutal but good!) and, of course, packing all our earthly belongings into boxes and suitcases (merely brutal!) in anticipation of the big move this Friday. Or, as they might say in a Baby Sitters Club book, The Big Move. Unlike bicoastal Dawn or choice-burdened Stacey it’s not really a difficult wrenching decish for us. We’re excited about moving.

I haven’t really been doing a lot of cooking lately, because we are trying to use up what’s in the cupboard and fridge. And not make anything huge that needs to be frozen or eaten over several days. Or use too many pieces of cookware. Which restricts us a schmeer. Last night Tim had spaghetti on toast before choir and I had a pub quiz after work. Monday night we went to Red Tomatoes Pizzeria and Cafe. On Sunday we cooked up 12 sausages at lunchtime that we’d defrosted from the freezer “for space-saving purposes” and…honestly…by nightfall the two of us had eaten them all. Not kidding. 12 sausages, two people, 6 hours. Saturday night was Burger Fuel because we had to be at the Film Archive by 7pm for the showing of my beloved Neil Young’s Rust Never Sleeps. Friday night was take-out satay noodles from Chow Mein Cube on the Terrace. Tomorrow night we’ll be getting takeaways because everything will be packed away and on Friday we’ll get takeaways because we’ve been moving all day. You get the idea. I’m really not cooking. And I can feel myself occupying more space than I normally do. Which is why next week I’m promising myself to embrace vegetables and shun sugars. But for now, it works. It’s simpler this way.

It doesn’t completely resemble the innermost circles of Hades here though. There has been some cooking – prior to all the non-cooking – occurring mostly because of the divine inspiration I garnered from the latest Cuisine magazine. Despite having a fridge rapidly emptying and a cupboard filled with increasingly disparite spices and condiments, I found myself turning pages of my Cuisine magazine and saying to myself rapturously (and loudly) “I can make this! And I have the ingredients for this! And also this! And still further recipes!”

So I did.

One rather genius dish that I tried was a Fiona Smith recipe of diced vegetables, basted in a salty dressing of miso, mirin, sugar and oil, roasted and mixed gently through sushi rice. Engaging stuff, yes?

Miso Roast Sushi Salad

The vegetables need to be cut into small, equal pieces so that they roast quickly and evenly without scorching the sauce. I found the amount of vegetables, once chopped, to be enormous, so ended up more than halving the amount. I suspect this is a very forgiving, adaptable recipe and can be changed up depending on what you have, more or less. I used a mixture of kumara, carrot, and parsnip. I left out the mushrooms because Tim doesn’t like them and the tofu because we just didn’t have any and it was still, despite this, just right for two people.

2 tablespoons rice vinegar
3 teaspoons caster sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sushi rice
1 1/4 cups water
4 cm strip kombu (optional)

4 tablespoons miso paste (you could happily sub this for black bean sauce)
2 tablespoons mirin
1 tablespoon peanut oil
2 tablespoons sugar

200g firm tofu, cut into 2cm chunks
4 cups chopped winter vegetables (pumpkin, carrot, kumara, parsnip)
2 cups mushrooms, quartered

Preheat oven to 200 C.

In a small bowl, stir together the first measure of sugar with the vinegar and salt and set aside. Place the rice in a colander, run under cold water then sit to drain while you prepare the vegetables. The draining step is apparently quite important so make sure this is the first thing you do.

Whisk together the miso, mirin, peanut oil and second measure of sugar. Chop all the vegetables into small cubes and mix in with the mushrooms and tofu in a large bowl, adding the sauce and coating thoroughly. Spread onto a paper-lined baking tray and roast for 20-25 minutes till the root vegetables are tender.

While the veges cook, place the rice in a medium saucepan with the seaweed if using, and cover with the 1 1/4 cups water. Bring to the boil, stirring, then clamp a lid on and cook at the lowest heat possible undisturbed for ten minutes. Take off the heat and leave undisturbed for ten minutes. Tip the rice into a large bowl and remove the kombu if used. Pour the vinegar mix over and stir gently, then add the roasted veges and tofu and carefully combine the lot together. Serve in bowls with sesame seeds and coriander with soy sauce and wasabi to serve if desired.

Serves 4.

This is very, very cheap and utterly delicious, the sort of thing you can happily eat by the heaped forkful while sitting cross-legged in front of the heater watching a DVD. It will, without a doubt, become a regular dinner this winter chez nous.

As I mentioned, last Saturday we went to see Neil Young’s Rust Never Sleeps at the Film Archive, and a very satisfying night it was too. We were part of a bare handful of under-forties whippersnappers present in the audience. It was a wonderful experience – big, beautiful sound, comfy seats, Neil in all his sneery glory on the big screen and of course his songs. Ohhhh the songs. I was tempted, in order to assert my right as a whippersnapper to be there, to state loudly, “I know! I’ve seen him live! It was a moment of spiritual clarity!” Speaking of films, I really, really can’t wait for Away We Go to open here in NZ (about 12 months after it opens in the USA, naturally). It has the most incredible cast and I’m not kidding, the trailer nearly made me tear up. And it has cameos from Catherine O’Hara, who I have a mad crush on (Catherine, call me!) and Broadway’s Allison Janney! Still speaking of films, we have been perusing the NZ Film Festival guide and circling various films we want to see, but mostly trying to find the most delightful foreign name for someone listed as working on one of the films. So far our hard-to-trump favourite is an actor called Knut Berger. Together, we salute you.


On Shuffle whilst I type feverishly:

Carry That Weight from Abbey Road by The Beatles (I love this song. It’s like launching into the built-up end of an epic, Hey Jude-like song without having to wait for the build-up. It’s like fast-forwarding to the “it’s meeeee!” part of Defying Gravity. It’s instant gratification.)
Welfare Mothers from Rust Never Sleeps by the divine Neil Young (was there e’er a cooler opening line than “people pick up on what I’m putting down”?)
Planet Z from Still I Can’t Be Still by the divine Idina Menzel (Tim actually admits to liking this song. Heavy. Very heavy. Also: buy this album. It’s ridiculous.)
Roadrunner by Modern Lovers from their eponymous album. I think I could listen to this song a squillion times and never tire of it. And I have a mad crush on the ageless Jonathan Richman. Call me, Jonathan!


In other significant happenings, Tim garnered an A and a B for two respective honours papers at uni which is just backflip-inducingly awesome. This is most likely the last blog entry I’ll post from this flat. Considering this very flat is where I began this blog as a mere blog-ling in the October of 2007, that’s…something. Right? We’d be much obliged if you could think happy, good-weather, box-lifting thoughts for us come Friday. Who was the patron saint of severely pulled muscles due to lifting from the back instead of the legs? We should probably be lighting a big old candle to him or her right now. (Not just being PC here, I wikipedia-d it and there really are a lot of lady saints.)

10 thoughts on “strange but not a stranger

  1. Kay says:

    A good time to be listening to Carry That Weight from Abbey Road …. did we ever tell you that we have walked across THE crossing on Abbey Road (several times, I know.)

    Good luck with the shift.

    I hope you find your new kitchen inspirational. Will send you happy lifting and moving thoughts tomorrow.


  2. Laura @ Hungry and Frozen says:

    Mum, I didn't even make the pun connection with Carry That Weight and lifting boxes. I'm a little worried. Will keep in touch tomorrow – I remember when you rang me on our first night at Hadfield when we were being terrorised by the landlord! What a time!


  3. Scotty says:

    Laura! OMG I am sad that I will never see your lil' wee old damp house again! (not really though) YAY SAUNA!

    Fab weather today though, and not too much rain yesterday. How did the move go? Did you carry that weight? (Lol your mum is tres clever)

    I have a spring in my step, hope to see you soon. Med school is defo taking over my life right now…



  4. viv says:

    congratulations Tim on your awesome marks!! By now you are in your new flat, and the rain held off – thankgoodness. Hope all backs are in tip top condition, and that you have found the kettle at least so that a restorative cuppa is forthcoming.


  5. hot garlic says:

    What?? I SWEAR on everything holy that I commented on this post! Where is it?? Did you not approve it? Was it distasteful? I distinctly remember leaving it because I wrote that I loved the 'health biscuits' -and that the name made me giggle. Just because we boorish Americans don't talk like that, but we love and are simply enamoured with all of you Commonwealth countries who do.

    I know I did. I simply know I did! Did I dream it? I know because I was coming back to RE-comment, in response to your lovely little comment about my skin and the moisturizer I use. At the time I last commented the mysterious missing comment, I forgot to tell you a huge thanks for making my day. And that there are two simple explanations. 1, I use the moisturizer from my husband's company, 4life. I'd be happy to arrange to get you some. And 2, I am young. Too young to have 2 children and have been married for 7 years. It's deceiving. I was a child bride.

    Anywho, was that me, did you delete my comment on the 14th? What did I say???


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